Alarming consequences of raid on religious meeting in Russia
ASBEST, Russia-Mrs. Aleksandr Mastyugina, a pregnant woman who is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, suffered a miscarriage after police illegally raided a religious meeting that she attended on May 24, 2009. A 15-year-old boy is also being illegally detained without his parents’ consent.
More than 50 members of a local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and interested persons had just begun a meeting for religious instruction on May 24 when police and FSB agents raided the rented premises. The officers burst in and ordered the meeting to stop. All in attendance were detained and photographed. They were not informed of their rights, were denied access to an attorney, and were not given the reasons for their detention. All who did not have identification documents with them were taken to the police station. Local ATV television network correspondents filmed the proceedings. The raid was in violation of the Russian Federation law and Constitution as well as the European Convention.
Mrs. Mastyugina was shaken by the raid and detention. During additional questioning on May 27, 2009, officers threatened to put her in a detoxification cell. Then on May 31, 2009, she was again summoned for questioning by the investigator, following which she felt ill. She was taken to a hospital, where she suffered a miscarriage.
Among those detained was a 15-year-old boy whose Witness parents were not at the meeting when the raid occurred. Police questioned him and, against his will, placed him in a children’s home. He is still being held there, despite applications filed to the management of the children’s home that he be immediately released since there are no legal grounds for his detention.
As noted by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in paragraph 57 of the Kuznetsov v. Russia, No. 184/02, 11/01/2007, judgment, the Court stated that “Article 9 of the Convention protects acts of worship and devotion which are aspects of the practice of a religion or belief in a generally recognised form.. It is undeniable that the collective study and discussion of religious texts by the members of the religious group of Jehovah’s Witnesses was a recognised form of manifestation of their religion in worship and teaching.” Despite the ECHR ruling, the Russian government continues to defy the rulings of the Court. Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, along with all lovers of freedom, appeal to the government of Russia to prohibit any further acts of violence against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.
Yaroslav Sivulskiy, telephone +7 911 087 80 09,
Marcel Gillet, tel. +32 2 782 0015
European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses
Philip Brumley, telephone +1 845 306 0711
General Counsel for Jehovah’s Witnesses